The Year of Beginning Luck
There’s a bit of advice, both brutal and poignant, called “fake it ‘til you make it.” On the one hand, I understand I should be writing stuff regularly for the blog and the newsletter and providing interesting things for fans to follow because it helps keep me “top of mind.” But, for cryin’ out loud, I only have one novel and half-a-dozen short stories to my pseudonym so far. Part of me wonders who is really going to be interested in this blog? Maybe just my kids. Will these posts be more relevant later, when fans decide to go all archaeological and dig back into the dark, dusty archives at some point? Maybe after I have more books? Maybe. The other part of me says, “Remember all those writers you said you admired? And tried to emulate while you were writing that novel and those short stories? This is also what they do.”
I’m not super comfortable writing about myself and I have no delusions. I’m a little bitty fish in a quiet eddy of a pretty big (but amazing) pond. This stuff is part of the business of being a writer though and I need to take hold of it and keep fakin’ it because I have every intention of makin’ it. With the support of terrific fans—my little darlings are the best!—I know I will.
Here goes. A bullet-point summary of what happened in 2016 and plans for 2017.
Finalizing Got Luck
By January 2016, we knew Got Luck was set for publication. I had gone through most of the many, many, (so many) rounds of edits Future House needed and I was waiting impatiently for the cover art to come out. I’d been told that very few publishers allow authors any input so it was a bonus that they asked at all. In February, I met Jonathan Diaz at the Life, the Universe, and Everything (LTUE) writer’s conference. He had been working on the cover and I got a sneak peek of the artwork at the conference. I loved the layout and most of the elements. I had one major issue in that Got was wearing a heavy overcoat and hat, which lent him a suitably mysterious look, but the story takes place in Miami, Florida in the Spring, which is usually too warm for a coat. Happily, everyone was glad to make some changes. The end result was awesome.
It Came from the Great Salt Lake and “Grandmother, Who Breaks the Sky”
My third short story came out in February 2016, at the same as the LTUE conference. The coveted spots in an anthology are either at the front or at the back. Many readers will check the first story of the anthology to see if the collection will interest them and, quite happily, “Grandmother, Who Breaks the Sky” was chosen for the lead-off spot. (Readers who don’t read the first story or the last story will usually find the shortest one instead and sample that one, no matter where it shows up in the anthology. Those crafty, time-crunched readers.) While my story has obvious connections to H.P. Lovecraft, it turned out to be more of a Ray Bradbury type of tale. I don’t write with a particular author or style in mind but in the post-mortem, I’m often surprised to see that the story bears a resemblance to the work of someone I’ve read for years. I met Bradbury in college and I think he would have liked how the main characters, two school boys, related to each other as they faced a terrible evil.
Selling out at Comic Con – Twice
The date of publication for Got Luck was March 17, 2016 which was St. Patrick’s Day. Perfect for a novel with Celtic Mythology in its bones. It was also around the first day of the Spring Comic Con in Salt Lake, also called Comic Con Fan-X. Future House brought big boxes of everybody’s work but they had to go back to the warehouse to get a second box for me. People liked the cover and everyone behind the table, including other authors, were having a good time. I think the key, however, was that we shamelessly sold each other’s books. Our goal was to find the best book for each reader who stopped, with the idea that it was more important to have a happy reader who would come back to Future House later than it was to sell copies of our own books just to sell them. For Got Luck, I benefited from being able to say “This is the first day of release,” and just being excited to talk about what it’s like to finally be a published novelist. And, when it was over, Future House got to take two empty boxes back to the warehouse and I got to take home the feeling that all the work had been worth it.
Obvious Things and “The Mark”
Writing short stories is great authorial exercise and every writer should learn to be both sprinter and marathoner. In April, a short story titled “The Mark” was published after winning a writing contest, both first place in its category and first place overall. The story features characters from Got Luck and the sequel, Got Hope. Short stories are great for giveaways as well and this story, along with another short from the Behindbeyond, titled “Lucky Day,” will be included in some special giveaways later in 2017. By the way, the best way to win is to subscribe to the newsletter and the link is at the top of the website page.
Future Worlds and “Spera Angelorum”
Science-fiction and fantasy are both sandboxes I find interesting to play in and some stories just can’t be told in a fantasy setting. The first short story that I ever sold was a science-fiction story and “Spera Angelorum” was another sci-fi piece that I’d been tinkering with and sending out to collect rejections because those are good for the soul. When Future House sent out a call for entries, this story wasn’t busy and I sent it over. Happily, it found a place. This story is not set in the Behindbeyond universe (probably) but explores what might happen if a literary genius from the 1800s and the most famous magician of the 1900s met on the distant “planet of angels” several centuries from now.
Fantastic Worlds and “Lucky Day”
I had only two weeks to write this story after Future House announced they wanted to publish a fantasy companion to Future Worlds. Since the commission was coming from my publisher and I was 99% sure it was going to be accepted, I thought it wouldn’t be too much pressure. Zowie, was I wrong. They asked for a story set in the Behindbeyond, which was fine, because things happen in the first chapter of Got Luck that are not shown “on screen” but are only understood later. I thought it would be fun to tell those events from a different viewpoint character and add some depth to the backstory of the novel and universe. All well and good until I hit the reality that two weeks is not a lot of time and a badly-written story would not only tarnish the whole world I’d built but also damage my reputation with Future House. Yikes. So. Lots of lack of sleep later, I had a story and, with no small amount of gratitude, liked how it turned out. “Lucky Day” and “The Mark” both give different, unique angles on the Got Luck story. As mentioned, there will be some packages and giveaways later this year.
Panelist at the League of Utah Writers Fall Conference.
The first writer’s conference I ever attended was the League of Utah Writer’s (LUW) conference in the fall of 2014. Two years later, I found myself on a panel discussing the horror genre and sitting as a moderator for a panel on poetry. I think people understood why I appeared on the horror panel. I’ve had short stories published in the genre and the novel has numerous horror elements. But poetry? Well, it might have had something to do with my disclosing I have a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature and I’ve studied and written a whole lot of poetry. There’s also a note in Got Luck revealing how I translated Goethe’s poem Der Erlkönig from the original German myself because none of the translations I could find had the correct number of feet per line. That’s the breed of obsessive-compulsive that will land you on a panel at a writer’s conference—with a great deal of fun.
Completing Got Hope – Tale Two from the Behindbeyond
I tend to overwrite, which I don’t view as a flaw. The goal in a first draft is to get the story out. Get it on the page. Get a beginning, a middle, and an end. Like a good meal, the ingredients must be fresh, tasty, and in proportion and you can’t start cooking until you have everything set. Once everything is in place, you can start to turn the ingredients into a feast. Similarly, once the pieces are in place for the story, you can turn them into a palatable meal by cooking them up in editing. Thankfully, I find both processes rewarding. Anyway, I tackled the sequel to Got Luck aggressively, deciding to title it Got Hope. It was too long. Way too long. The first novel, Got Luck, was a little long. I trimmed almost 10,000 words from the early drafts to get to the final dish. So far, I’ve cut, boiled down, and adjusted the recipe of Got Hope to reduce it by 26,000 words. It’s been a challenge but the story is becoming more lean, more nuanced, and more savory and that’s what’s important. At the moment, the novel stands at around 110,000 words total and it’s in the hands of the editors at Future House. That gives me a chance to work on blogging, which I’ve neglected while powering through Got Hope. Editing will continue into February with the launch scheduled for March 17, 2017. St. Patrick’s Day.
I made a return to Comic Con in August and it was great to hang out with the Future House staff and authors again. I had a chance to present my lecture “Top Ten Clichés, Mistakes, and Shortcuts to Make You a Better Writer!” at the Herriman Chapter of the League of Utah Writers in September, which was a lot of fun. For the first time, as far as I know, my work was used in a college student project. (Thanks Kayla!)
Hitting a #1 on Amazon
I was a guinea pig. When Got Luck was first published, we had some paperbacks for promotions and conventions but the novel was only for sale, officially, in digital format. Future House was working on an arrangement with publisher/distributor IPG to take over some of the responsibilities at the time and I was in the middle. This explains why there are Amazon reviews starting in March 2016 but the publication date is October 1, 2016. When it was new, the novel sold well and Future House put together some well-timed promotional opportunities that boosted the sales and we made it as high as #3 in the “Hard-Boiled” category and #4 in other categories. The novel stayed near the top for a respectable stretch of time. I explain all of this because the novel had been out for nine months when IPG (I believe) ran a fresh promotion and pushed Got Luck back to the top, hitting #1 in the “Hard-Boiled” category where we’d almost hit it before. Now, having been made a guinea pig feels like genius.
Conferences and Conventions in 2017
For 2017, I’ve committed to a number of events thus far. I’m trying to keep the schedule reasonable because there’s a lot of writing to do! More details will be available on the website.
- January 13-15 – Calliope Writer’s Conference – Special Guest
- February 16-18 – Life, the Universe, and Everything Writer’s Conference – Panelist and Moderator
- March 17-18 – Comic Con Fan-X – Future House Booth
Release Party and Book Signings
I’m looking forward to having a release party for Got Hope sometime in March and starting a run of book signing events at book stores and other outlets. Plans are tentative now but will be solidified and announced soon.
The Prince of Voyage Home
As the first book in a new series, The Prince of Voyage Home will allow me to connect with younger readers. While Got Luck is written to YA standards, it’s better suited for readers in high school and older due to the age and circumstance of the main character who is in his twenties. Teachers and parents know that kids tend to read fewer books as they grow older. A lot of authors spend time making school visits to market books, certainly, but more importantly to provide material that will keep kids reading. We’re working out the details, trying to decide if it’s time to push a new series or get more Got Luck novels completed first. The new series will create an audience that can graduate into the Got Luck series as they get older, which is a good way to help kids keep that excitement for reading and build that following all authors need.
Got Lost – Tale Three from the Behindbeyond
As events in the Behindbeyond grow increasingly dire, Got gets a mysterious new mentor. In order to track down a missing Laoch and Béil, he’ll need to return to The Mama and the foster home where he grew up. Depending on how quickly the first drafts come together, Got Lost could be released in the Fall. Stay tuned.
Thanks a million much for reading! Looking forward to a great year!